Emperor and The Assassin, The (2000) - Synopsis
THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN, set during the third century BC, is the story of an ambitious King, Ying Zheng, obsessed with unifying all of China and becoming its first emperor. To this end, he embarks upon an unparalleled reign of terror and brutality against all who, he believes, stands between him and his destiny.
Hoping to contribute in some way to Ying Zheng's dream of Chinese unification, Lady Zhao, his lover from childhood, devises an intricate fake assassination plot against Ying Zheng which, when "uncovered", will provide him with a legitimate excuse to invade the neighboring kingdom of Yan, his greatest obstacle to unification.
However, before the plan can be fully realized, Ying Zheng discovers a painful secret about his birth. This stunning revelation triggers the cold-blooded instinct within him. He has anyone who might have knowledge of his true lineage killed. He then plots a bloody attack on Lady Zhao's beloved homeland.
This vicious incursion includes the slaughtering of many innocent children, which violates a solemn promise made earlier to Lady Zhao. She is now forced to turn against her lover. Though her affection for him is strong, she can no longer accept or defend his pragmatic ruthlessness.
Operating out of the neighboring kingdom of Yan and in conjunction with its Prince, Lady Zhao now truly supports the plot to assassinate Ying Zheng. The man finally chosen to kill the King, Jing Ke, is a highly respected assassin who, ironically, has turned his back on his profession in an attempt to find a more meaningful life.
Zhao soon finds herself drawn to the great warrior and the two fall deeply in love. When the assassination plot fails and Jing Ke is killed, Zhao returns to Qin to claim her lover's body. In their final meeting, Lady Zhao confronts Ying Zheng and condemns his horrific deeds. She turns and walks away, leaving the King to forge his great empire alone.